UNM president addresses deficit plan to pay off Athletic’s debt

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – UNM has been in a lot of trouble over their athletic department’s debt. Now they have a plan to pay it back.

The information surfaced after legislatures put the university’s acting president in the hot seat.

From fewer people in the stands and overestimating ticket sales, UNM Athletics is now in a pricey predicament, $4.7 million worth.

“How long have you been carrying this debt?” asked Legislative Finance Committee Chair Patricia Lundstrom.

UNM’s acting president Chaouki Abdallah replied, “Five to six years.”

There were a lot of questions for Abdallah and the Higher Education Department at Tuesday’s Legislative Finance Committee meeting.

“Was this deficit then just being carried from year to year?” asked Lundstrom.

Abdallah said the main issue the Athletics Department had was overestimating ticket sales. So, the committee made one big request: “Tell us how we’re gonna fix this.”

“There’s two ways that we can pay this thing… One is either by generating more revenues, the other is cutting more costs,” Abdallah replied.

The acting president said student fees have come into play before.

“In the past, Regents had raised student fees, with a portion of that going into athletics,” he said.

However, in the last five years, student fees for New Mexico residents have jumped over $300, and over 10 percent already goes to Athletics.

In the current plan, he said UNM is discussing with the Higher Education Department to use more revenue from ticket sales.

Another option according to Abdallah, “Transferring from other reserves, being able to pay off this debt, basically, so this debt is no longer going to be on our books.”

The committee chair wasn’t entirely thrilled with the plans.

“That tells me that we’re building budgets in this particular department, that doesn’t have any revenue to pay for it, plus carrying debt on top of it,” said Lundstrom.

Abdallah told the committee this year UNM has worked to better estimate ticket sales, and over the last few years, it’s been making cuts.

UNM said in November, the Board of Regents approved the transfer of funds to cover this year’s debt, around $1.3 million.

The deficit plan is not yet finalized. UNM will be presenting the plans to the Board of Regents in January, who would then have the final say.

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